Last week, the Government announced a building target of three million homes by 2020, two million of which are to be delivered by 2016. This is now an absolute priority for New Labour and supersedes both health, defense and education, leaving the audit commission to comment that such a priority has only been seen three times in British history, during the industrial revolution and at the end of the First and Second World Wars.
For those of us in Thanet worried by the spread of concrete and increasingly busy roads, Housing & Planning Minister, Yvette Cooper, had few words of comfort. “We are not”, she said, “going to build our way out of traffic congestion”.
So what does this all mean for us?
The good news is that £732 million will be spent helping councils with the infrastructure costs if they support new housing or to quote the Minister, “Those councils and communities that are doing their bit to deliver new homes should get more cash” but where this cash will really go remains a mystery and every indication is that it will join all the other money going North to places such as Leicester and Northampton, to name but two, rather than towards a Thanet which has seen its central government support slashed this year.
Contrary to what South Thanet MP, Dr Ladyman has said about our island’s so-called over-achievement in housing, Thanet is apparently not building enough houses, because so-called ‘Windfall sites’, the bungalows springing up in gardens around the island don’t count in the housing targets. No, apparently, we need to build at least 30 more units per annum (as instructed by SEERA - than are being built already, just to stand still.
Bearing in mind that in Kent, 8% of homes are in the private rented sector and in Cliftonville West, this figure is 59%, perhaps you should know that the council is receiving an average of 314 applications for social housing each month from people that live both inside and outside Thanet. With 4000, people or families now on the council's housing register, The Conservative Group that leads Thanet District Council has decided it urgently needs to introduce a new housing allocations policy: “To give appropriate priority to local residents and discourage the inward migration of vulnerable people to Thanet.”
Far more attention needs to be been given by Government to the scale of the problem facing our local population. The London Borough of Newham, as one example, has 5,800 people in temporary accommodation, who cost rather more to keep in London, than they might if sent to accommodation in Kent. While Thanet welcomes migrant workers that make a contribution to the growth of our local economy, what is Government actually doing to address the constant migration pressure from London?
Ironically, for the last two years, Thanet has actually put more people back in work than any other part of the South-east and the council is working hard to deliver both affordable homes through agreements with developers and reduce the number of vulnerable people living in non-decent accommodation through effective licensing and enforcement activity.
This government is going to try and build its way out of a housing crisis and both infrastructure and carbon-neutrality will suffer as a result. While we are trying to draw breath and at least get the patient, which is Thanet’s own infrastructure and housing problem, back on its feet, Government not only wants to suffocate us under even more concrete but it appears unlikely to give us anything near (if at all) of the financial support it will apply to more important constituencies running-up to the next General Election.
Draw your own conclusions.